Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Checking back in

Truth to tell, I'm a little apprehensive about coming back to this blog.

I've been gone for two weeks, back home to DC/Hampton visiting friends and family. I could almost wish I hadn't gone. Being back home for two weeks put me behind in my project, and it was very depressing to come back to an empty apartment in a nearly-deserted compound in CA. It just underscores what is obvious to me - I want to finish up here and go home.

The first Sunday back in church here in CA was also rough. I had a copy of the new reader's edition of the Book of Concord waiting for me. I appreciate many facets of Lutheran thought, but the abysmal level of understanding of other traditions in it (Calvinism and moderate Anabaptism in particular) added to my depression. I went to adult Bible class for the first time in awhile (I had my own car, so I didn't have to leave when my usual ride home did), and I participated a little - not very much it seemed to me. But afterwards, as I was walking back to my rental car, the pastor called out to me that I ought to consider going into the ministry or teaching.

Oh, God, if he only knew.

I told him, "I once thought that. Now, unless I get a clear call from God, I have to just wait."

That comment of his really brought things back for me. I was once so *sure* that I was going to be an academic theologian! I had my theology down pat. I was going to prove once and for all that there is NO "head-heart" divide, that Calvinistic credobaptism was the perfect theological system, and that...

Well, needless to say, it all fell apart. Knowing more theology did not make me a better or more obedient Christian. I can't help but see that there are valuable truths and insights in all branches of Christendom, and that every system of theology has its holes. I saw the way theology is most often used (as a weapon in argumentation) and how pedantic academic theology could get. I saw the way God is moving in places like Africa and South America - and how things are generally a mess here in American evangelicalism, and we are mostly blind to it all.

All this, and more (some of which are my own failings, like problems with Greek), wrecked my sense of any sort of "call".

I once told my rector that I thought I was going mad, and I would either end up as an atheist or a monk. He just laughed and said I was in no danger of becoming either. I suppose not. By now "doing theology" is in my bones, and I can't help thinking, reading, and (occasionally) writing about it, even now. But, to use the words put into the mouth of Luther in the recent movie about him, "I've mislaid all (or mostly all) my former certainties."


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